FOX News last week poached the lede from the third installment of a Colorado Independent series on Gov. Bill Ritter’s oil and gas drilling regulations one year later, but they also beautifully managed to underscore the hypocrisy of the Republican push to gut the rules even in the wake of a nationwide push for more stringent drilling regulations.
Ritter, at a bill signing ceremony in Breckenridge Thursday, enjoyed a little “I-told-you-so” moment as he touted the new rules and regs that favor environmental protections but have been blasted by the right as a job-killing conspiracy that has been the main driver in pushing the oil and gas industry out of the state (even though they never really left).
Rigs counts are down but permitting activity is ahead of surrounding Rocky Mountain states, and common sense would dictate the primary reason is the price of gas hovering around $4 per million British thermal units (MMBtu).
“It was a hard fight, but I stand here today feeling very good about having fought that fight,” Ritter said, according to FOX. “People are going to have a much more difficult time criticizing these rules because we’re being good stewards of the environment. The BP spill in the Gulf is the exclamation point on what happens when stewardship wanes, when it goes away. We didn’t do that, we were stewards. And, yes, it was a fight with the industry but it was a fight worth having for us because I can feel comfortable that we’ve got the right permitting process in place.”
Then this response from the right:
“I think that’s one of the most preposterous and reprehensible statements Ritter has made through his entire failed term as governor,” Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams said. “I’d like him to point to an accident or spill in Colorado comparable to the horrible spill in the Gulf. For him to try to justify his job-killing energy regulations by equating Colorado’s energy industry to what is going on with BP in the Gulf is a low standard even by Ritter’s low standards. This really shows why he’s going to go down as one of the most incompetent governor’s in the history of the state.”
True, it would be impossible to duplicate in a single event or spill the catastrophe enabled by eight years of Bush administration coziness with the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Natural gas drilling simply cannot spew as many toxins into the environment as a deepwater oil-drilling rig. But cumulative effects could add up to a Deepwater Horizon-type demise for the outdoor recreation, residential development, tourism, hunting and fishing and agriculture industries on the Western Slope.
The Colorado River, by all accounts, is greatly diminished in terms of water quality and quantity from all of the growing demands, and the energy sector is one of the most consumptive and potentially toxic.
There are two clear choices at the polls this November when it comes to balancing energy industry demands against all of the other aspects of Colorado that make it such a unique place to live and visit. Republicans want to roll back the clock to the Gov. Bill Owens days.
Democrats and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper want to continue the more balanced approach Ritter has taken, which – credit where credit is due, FOX pointed out – included bolstering the state’s natural gas industry by creating local markets through the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. Even the Dems know natural gas is the best possible bridge fuel to the “New Energy Economy.” They just want the drilling done right.